How Microchip Cat Flaps Work

What is a Microchip Cat Flap?

Cat flaps are a useful purchase for any owner. As well as the obvious convenience of allowing your cat to enter and exit when he pleases, a lot of modern versions come with an app that allows you to control access and receive alerts when it’s used.

Known for their excellent security and reliability, these types of cat doors are extremely popular with owners. So how do they work?

How a Microchip Cat Flap Works

A microchip cat flap works by reading the microchip implanted under your pet’s skin. Just like microchip scanners, it reads the microchip by utilising Radio Frequency Identification Technology. This happens every time your cat attempts to use the flap.

The microchip is scanned by a sensor on the outside of the flap – if it finds a match, the door is unlocked for your cat. If your cat’s unique identification number isn’t recognised, the flap remains locked.

How Much They Cost

Kind of like standard cat flaps on steroids, microchip variants offer the same peace of mind, albeit with more sophisticated technology. However, this comes at a price. While you can pick up a regular cat flap for as little as $20 those with microchips are usually north of $50.

And that’s not including installation costs either. According to Checkatrade.com, cat flap installation can cost anywhere in the region of $100 to $500. How much you‘ll have to pay depends on the type of door in which you‘d like to install it.

For instance, microchip cat flaps for glass doors are going to require glass cutting which could mean more expensive labour costs.

How to Set up a Microchip Cat Flap

Setting up a microchip cat flap is very easy. But it’s important that you do your homework before purchase. Assuming you’ve had your cat microchipped (strongly advised), you’ll need to check if the model you’d like is compatible.

Check Compatibility

Compatibility shouldn’t be much of an issue with major brands such as PetSafe, CatMate or SureFlap. Conveniently, most cat microchips are of the type FDX-B (15 digits).

However, 10-digit (FDXA) and 9-digit microchips can be read too. So it’s highly likely that your chosen model will pick up your pet’s chip.

If you’re in any doubt, read the product description carefully and/or visit the manufacturer’s website. Most companies provide a list of compatible microchips and/or an online checking tool like this one from PetSafe.

Installation

As with any cat flap, microchip variants can be installed in PVC, wooden and metal doors, as well as plasterboard and brick.

Although a relatively simple procedure for wooden or uPVC doors, installing one on a glass surface requires specialist tools. It might therefore be worth hiring a professional tradesman such as a qualified glazier.

Keep in mind that certain manufacturers like SureFlap recommend that you program the cat flap first.

Insert Batteries

All microchip models require batteries to power the actual scanner. Surprisingly, a lot of manufacturers don’t include them so you may have to invest in a couple (usually AA).

The battery life for all models is very good – as a result, you shouldn’t have to replace them for at least 6 months. For some models, the batteries can last for up to 12 months.

Programming a Microchip Cat Flap

So how do your program a Microchip cat flap? The process is very similar for most of the major brands. Press and hold the memory/mode button until the LED light turns red.

Then place your cat near the flap, or position the upper half of his body through the flap door, so that his microchip can be read and saved.

Once recognised, the red light should turn off and the door will unlatch. The flap will now remain shut for all other animals.

Even those with microchips won’t be able to gain access because their chip won‘t match the one embedded under your cat’s skin.

For more set-up info, see these videos from PetSafe and SureFlap.

Can You Lock a Microchip Cat Flap?

Like standard models, it’s possible to lock most microchip cat doors. In fact, the vast majority of models include a manual four-way mechanism allowing you to lock the door from the inside and out.

This overrides the microchip-triggered lock.

Two-Way Scanning Functionality

Standard two way cat doors are a popular option for owners. Useful for keeping cats indoors, while also restricting access to intruder felines, they provide plenty of flexibility with regards to curfews and cat safety.

While a lot of microchip versions include two-way scanning systems, some of the basic ones don’t. Clearly this shouldn’t present too much of a problem given that the entire system is based on providing exclusive outdoor access to your cat.

But should an intruder feline should somehow get trapped in your home, the marooned mog is probably going to become rather stressed. So we‘d recommend you invest in a microchip cat door that works both ways.

Microchip Cat Flaps for Multiple Cats

All of the best manufacturers sell microchip cat doors for multi-cat households. Known as Dual Scan Cat Flaps, these can store the microchip data of up to 40 different felines.

You can also program the flap to grant outdoor access to specific cats – very handy if you’re planning a trip to the vet or one of your pets is poorly.

Cat Flap

How to Get Your Cat to Use a Microchip Cat Flap

Getting your cat used to a microchip cat flap shouldn’t present much a problem. Remember that most cats have an insatiable desire to go outside.

This instinctive urge should therefore help with the process. Here’s a quick guide.

Introductions

First introduce your cat to his new cat flap. You’ll have to do this when you program the door anyway. Try to create positive associations with the door by leaving treats near it.

Encourage Your Cat to Go Near the Flap

If you’ve programmed the flap, your cat will slowly get accustomed to the door opening when he approaches. If he refused to go near it at first, try moving the treats closer to the door each time.

Place Treats Either Side of Door

Should your pet still be reluctant to exit through his new cat door, place treats on the outside too. You could also use his favourite toy as an alternative.

Repeat

Repeat the above process a couple of times a day. Remember that not all cats will take to microchip doors immediately so try to be patient.

Take care not to force your pet through the door either. He’ll use it when he’s good and ready!

Microchip Cat Flap Benefits

Obviously, a lot of owners settle for standard cat doors because they’re simple to use, affordable and reliable. They also don’t require batteries!

Nevertheless, microchip flaps offer numerous benefits.

Very Secure

Microchip flaps offer security by preventing neighbourhood cats invading your home and eating your pet’s food. Although standard versions allow you to block outside access, it can be quite easy to forget. Microchip flaps eliminate this problem.

They’re also more secure than infrared or magnetic flaps that require your cat to wear a collar. Should another cat have the same collar, then it’s going to be open sesame. You don’t have to worry about this with a microchip scanner.

Set Curfew Times

Most microchip doors include curfew modes that allow you to lock the flap at specific times. This is especially convenient if you’re looking to deter your cat from hunting.

Allows Access for Specific Cats at Certain Times

This is a great feature for multi-cat households. The option to restrict or grant access to specific cats at specific times can be of enormous benefit, especially if said cat is poorly, in heat or needs to be taken to the vet.

Remote Access

One of our favourite features is the ability to remotely change access rights via an app. This can prove very useful if you want to make changes on the fly.

Say for example, there‘s bad weather on the way, you can program the flap to keep your cat indoors.

Receive Notifications

Companies such as SureFlap allow you to connect their doors to an app. As well as being able to lock the flap remotely, you can also receive notifications when your cat arrives home. Now that’s very cool!

Summary

  • Very Secure
  • You Can Set Curfew Times
  • Can Be Used for Multiple Cats
  • Remote Access Possible
  • Receive Alerts When Cat Returns Home

Microchip Cat Flap Drawbacks

Microchip cat flaps aren’t for everybody. And it’s worth pointing out that technology, no matter how sophisticated, can sometimes malfunction. Here are some of the drawbacks of microchip reading cat doors.

Expensive

These types of cat flaps are way more expensive than standard doors. As mentioned, you should expect to pay at least $50. And if you’re not a DIY person, you’ve got installation fees on top as well.

Batteries Required

Is this a major drawback? Probably not. But some of you may be irked by having to spend more on batteries after shelling out a couple hundred quid on the door as well as installation.

We’re not sure why most manufacturers don’t include batteries, but there you go.

Can Stop Working

For whatever reason, these types of cat flaps can stop working. Sometimes this is down to spent batteries, other times you may need to reset.

It should however be pointed out, that microchip flaps are known for their reliability. Most of them are also sold with good warranties, some of which are up to three years.

Cat Peering Through Flap

Cat Needs to Be Microchipped

Obviously, your cat needs to be microchipped in order for you to use one of these things. If he’s not, you’re not going to get much use out of the product!

This may be something of a deal-breaker for owners who haven’t yet had the procedure performed on their pet and are already a bit miffed about the overall price.

Summary

  • Expensive
  • Requires Batteries
  • Malfunctions
  • Cat Needs to Be Microchipped

Which is the Best Microchip Cat Flap?

We’ll be going into a lot of depth about the best microchip cat flaps in the near future. But for now, we’d suggest you stick with the most trusted brands currently on the market.

As mentioned above, these include PetSafe, CatMate or SureFlap. All of these makers are well-regarded and highly-rated by users on sites such as Amazon.

Is it Worth Getting a Microchip Cat Flap?

It may be seem like a bit of extravagance in purchasing a microchip flap. After all, the main selling point here is arguably the ability to restrict access to marauding cats, while keeping your own one indoors as and when you choose.

But this basic functionality is present in standard two-way cat doors and at more affordable prices. Essentially, you‘re paying for the technology which does in fairness, offer you some really convenient extra features.

These include the ability to set curfew times, to use the door for multiple cats and to lock the door remotely via an app.

So if you’re happy to spend a couple hundred quid for the door and installation then we recommend you invest in one. But it’s not exactly an essential purchase in our book.

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